A carbon dioxide pipeline, a new prison were topics at the candidates’ forum

The recent purchase of a $4.5 million building that will be used as the future site of a regional jail in Brown County was one of many topics discussed at the county commissioner nominees forum. of Tuesday.

The candidates were asked what they thought of the regional prison and how they had voted or how they would have voted. Although everyone agreed on the need for a prison, not everyone agreed with the purchase of the building.

Each of the six candidates weighed in at the first of three candidate forum this week at the KO Lee Aberdeen Public Library.

Brown County has three four-year seats and one two-year seat open to the county commission this year. Incumbent Doug Fjeldheim, 68, R-Westport, a businessman and retired farmer, is unopposed for the two-year term.

Four Republicans and one Democrat have filed nomination petitions for the three seats on the four-year commission. They include:

  • Drew Dennert, 26, R-Aberdeen. Dennert is currently State Representative for District 3 and co-owns his family’s cow-calf operation north of Aberdeen.
  • Mike Wiese, 66, R-Aberdeen. Wiese has nearly 24 years of experience with the county commission from 1994 to 2014 and then 2018 to present. He has worked in sales, marketing and technology and is a reserve officer for the Aberdeen Police Department.
  • Michael Gage, 45, R-Aberdeen. Gage was appointed to the commission in December to fill the position vacated by Rachel Kippley, who was hired as the Brown County Fair’s manager. He previously served in the army and runs his family’s cow-calf operation northeast of Aberdeen with his father.
  • Mike Russell, 53, R-Aberdeen, served on the board of Brown County Fair and is regional manager of hotels and convention centers for Lamont Companies.
  • Chad Fischbach, 48, D-Warner, served on the Warner School Board for three years and closes with his father and brother.

Only Republican candidates will be in the primary ballot on June 7. The top three voters will join Fischbach in the November ballot.

Not all agree on the purchase of the prison building

Brown County commissioners agreed to buy the former Hub City Inc. building in the industrial park with four votes in favor, including the three incumbents (Fjeldheim included) at Tuesday’s forum. The sale of the building closed on April 1, but questions remain.

Gage said he voted in favor after the caveat was raised that 40% of the project’s cost of more than $30 million would be raised within a year.

“Looking at the number of prisons, we are operating at full capacity. We need more beds. The discussion needs to be about how many beds we need,” Gage said, adding that one of his lingering questions is how the county will staff the new jail. .

When the needs assessment was presented to the county commissioners, they were told that the new jail, although larger, could be operated with the same number of people as the existing jail as it would be more efficient.

Funding for the purchase of the building came from the latest stimulus package, the US bailout. Brown County received money that they could use for salaries, which freed up other funds to purchase the building.

Dennert said commissioners going forward need to assess interest from other counties and whether this site will be the most fiscally responsible option.

“It’s important that we have this discussion and what’s going to help keep the county safe,” he said.

While he recognizes something needs to be done, Dennert said the county also needs to be transparent about it and there needs to be community support.

Fjeldheim also said he supported the purchase and offered the caveat that the county has broader financial support. But, he said, buying the building shows the county’s commitment to the project, which will help with the summer legislative study that will assess the needs of prisons in the state.

If the building’s renovation doesn’t work out, he said, the county can sell it. But the county will have to come up with an alternate plan that takes into account that the jail and juvenile detention center are at capacity.

Had he been a board member, Russell said he likely would have voted against the purchase.

“I feel like I could have needed more information,” Russell said. “I feel like there is a need for more beds, but where will the money come from?”

He asked if it made sense to buy the building rather than pursue a construction project closer to the current prison.

Fischbach said he would have voted no as well. Instead of buying the building, he said, the county could have used the money used to provide property tax relief.

But Wiese said the money used for the purchase is not recurring funding, so using it for property tax relief would be a dangerous proposition. Wiese voted in favor of the purchase.

“The need for prison expansion, however we do it, is acute,” he said. “If we can do this, and I promise to do this without raising taxes, it will save us $10 million…”

The savings are comparable to constructing a completely new building. And, he said, there would be additional space available for other programs in the Hub City building.

After:The June 7 primary poll loaded with races including Aberdeen School Board, City Council

Candidates Oppose Use of Eminent Domain for CO2 Pipeline

Candidates were also asked what they thought of a possible carbon dioxide sequestration pipeline.

Summit Carbon Solutions proposed a 2,000 mile pipeline that would pump liquefied carbon dioxide from 31 ethanol plants in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska so it could be stored a mile underground in western North Dakota.

A total of 469 miles of the pipeline route would cross South Dakota and 29 miles of line are planned in Brown County.

A permit for the project is under review by the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, but Brown County has joined other county commissions in the state in seeking party status so that their concerns can be heard by the PUC.

Among the many concerns expressed at recent public meetings, one is whether a private, for-profit company should be able to use eminent domain to secure the land if easements are not signed by the owners. This is something that candidates agree is a bad idea.

Gage said if easements are secured for the project, that’s fine, but he doesn’t favor Summit Carbon Solutions having eminent domain authority.

Dennert, who continues to have safety and environmental concerns about the project, said he does not believe a pipeline reaches the level of use of eminent domain.

While he recognizes that eminent domain has a place for public infrastructure like power lines, Fjeldheim said it shouldn’t be available to a private, for-profit company.

Russell also opposes eminent domain and said something else will come that doesn’t require a pipeline.

“Ethanol companies have found ways to reduce their carbon dioxide. I realize that we as a society benefit from not putting that into the ozone layer, but there are other ways to achieve it,” he said.

Fischbach, who opposes the pipeline and worries about what would happen if a crack in the line were to occur, said he also opposes the use of eminent domain.

Besides eminent domain, Wiese said he was concerned about training in the event of an incident with the pipeline and the overall necessity of the project. Yes, carbon dioxide is released when corn is turned into ethanol. But it’s also temporarily sequestered in corn when it’s grown, and the ethanol project releases that carbon dioxide into the environment.

The next Candidates Forum, at 5.30pm on Wednesday at the Library, features candidates vying for the Aberdeen Public School Board. Candidates running for Aberdeen City Council will take part in a candidates’ forum at 5.30pm on Thursday at the library.

Melvin B. Baillie